Friday, November 18, 2011
The Sexual Allure Of The Motorcycle: One Up And One Down...
John F. Kennedy Boulevard is the primary artery running through five of the nine communities that make up Hudson County, New Jersey. It’s 14-mile-long length constitutes one of the densest traffic corridors in the Garden State — with one of the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the US. It is peppered with traffic lights (about one every city block), that occasionally adhere to some synchronistic behavior, with a few bizarre intersections (like the I-495 tunnel cut) thrown into the mix.
Riding a motorcycle along this stretch is the closet thing to experiencing life as a clay pigeon. And while it’s been some time since I leaned into the curves on JFK Boulevard, I doubt things have improved since the near tragic circumstances that occurred on this September night, in 1978.
In those days, I was riding in the company of “Cretin,” an urban desperado whose idea of the perfect romance was a one-night-stand... Whose concept of business was pricing “pot” or “blow” for value... And whose notion of a smokin’ hot sexual/social aid was a jet black Norton Commando. I have written about Cretin before and readers tuning into “Twisted Roads” for the first time can learn more about this representative of Jersey City Café society by clicking here and here.
“Cretin” was one of the toughest guys I ever knew. He hung around with some of the toughest guys I ever met, in the toughest saloons where some of the most outrageously beautiful women I ever saw, routinely opened their shirts for bikers who bit the heads off scorpions. I was like Toulouse Lautrec in a Parisian whorehouse for tall men. I had no business revolving in these social circles, but “Cretin” made it my business. “Cretin” told these guys that I was cool... That I was a writer... And that while I would generally see everything, I’d be damned disinclined to talk about it with strangers. Consequently, I walked through this valley of death and only got my ass kicked once. (This was by a semi-retired pole dancer who offered to open her shirt for me. I had had several Cuba Librés already that evening, and had given this kind soul an appraising glance, before truthfully answering, “No.” She took it hard. Cretin later said, “Next time, just say ‘yes’ like everybody else.”)
The clock was about to strike 1am and I was following Cretin at a ridiculously high speed down Kennedy Boulevard. It must have been the mating season for Norton Commando riders as “Cretin” was exhibiting the classic signs of rut. This included riding from gin mill to gin mill, playing “Werewolves of London” (by Warren Zevon) on the jukebox, and dancing on the bar until his jeans were down around his balls. And throughout this ritual, “Cretin” would be surveying the crowd for any woman, or one particular one, depending on his current degree of infatuation. This night, he was searching for a nicely-sculpted brunette, who’d wandered into “The Bucket of Guts” (not the bar’s real name) a few times prior to his passing out under the pool table. (New talent in these places either got claimed quickly or chased away fast.)
I was riding the tail-gun Charlie position for two reasons: a) there was never a dull moment with “Cretin;” and b) there was always a good shot that if “Cretin” was getting laid, then the one-night-stand-love-of-his-life had a friend and I’d get laid too. With “Cretin,” anything could happen. (I once won $500 on an illegal gambling game in some shithole he dragged me into.) His search had taken us to three bars already and seemed to be setting the theme for the evening. “Cretin’s” mating ritual would keep him occupied for a while, and then he’d call the next bar from a payphone (remember those?), on the odd shot one of his cronies had seen her.
Rumor had it she’d surfaced at a joint down in Greenville (the other side of Jersey City) and we were off like two couriers carrying human organs for transplant.
Our bikes couldn’t have come from more opposite ends of the spectrum. The Norton was the epitome of the Brit bike at its prime. It had a throaty growl, decent chrome, and paint as black as my second mother-in-law’s lungs. (She’d been a quality control inspector at Chernobyl.) I was astride a two-stroke 1975 Kawasaki H2 750, known as the “widow-maker.” This rig came in a lollipop purple, with shitty chrome, highlighted by highly questionable handling characteristics, complete with sound effects to match an outboard motor in a Port Authority toilet. It had damn little to recommend it, except it would blow past the Norton in any gear, leaving the Brit bike choking in a thin blue vapor.
“Cretin” never tired of explaining to me that my bike was the badge of a total douche. Worse... In his estimation, only a “disposable douche” would ride a Kawasaki H2. I always took this admonishment as Gospel, and then I’d reward his candor by smoking him with five miles of two-stroke-scented exhaust.
Kennedy Boulevard is home to 13 million traffic lights. My father once explained to me that they were synchronized to the 35 mile-per-hour limit, and that you could often cover 10 or 12 blocks by adhering to that speed (assuming that traffic was not laden with assholes). “Cretin proved to me that you could cover 20 blocks or more — while scorning death — at 60 mph, which is what my speedometer was reading when he crashed.
The “Boulevard” is 4 lanes wide in theory, but there is almost always someone making a left turn at every other intersection, which stacks up traffic on the right. We’d just entered a section where one set of synchronized lights bordered on another, and “Cretin” split between the right lane of standing traffic and a row of parked cars — to get ahead of everyone momentarily stunned by the signals turning bright green. It was at this point that Cecilia “Cookie” Siciliano, having explained to her boyfriend for the 5th time that night why he was not going to get a blow job in the car, opened her door and started to step out.
For a split second, “Cretin’s” entire world was an open car door — and a hot set of legs — that reduced his forward path to a gap about 18 inches wide.
“Cretin” screamed louder than the standard motorcycle horn of the period. It was forever known as the night that the word “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!.......” reverberated through the asphalt and dog shit canyons of Jersey City. Cecilia squealed, and fell back into the car, pulling the door shut behind her.
“Cretin” simply locked up everything and slammed through the gears. But the die was cast. The Norton began a tight fishtail as he fought to keep it in a straight line. It should be noted here that Kennedy Boulevard has been paved and repaved as an experiment in bad county economics any number of times, resulting in thousands of places where the asphalt is uneven, lumpy, or broken. “Cretin” had picked one of these spots to effect the most “emphatic” stop of his misguided life. For once, the odds were really against him. The back tire jumped around like it was possessed and the Norton low-sided in the intersection.
“Cretin” slid on his ass about 50 feet, before rolling over a number of times, coming to rest against the back tire of a parked car. His non-regulation, “Steve Canyon”-style US Air Force helmet took the shock and remained intact. And because he was “Cretin,” he was up and walking around, though holding his right elbow and manifesting the signs of road-rash where his jeans blew out at the ass. The flawless Norton was a mess.
The first cops to arrive were Jersey City’s finest, who knew “Cretin” by his first name. They called the meat wagon. The second squad car on the scene brought the Hudson County Cops, as the “Boulevard” was technically a county road. “Cretin” was loaded onto a gurney, and taken to the nearest hospital (of which there were three in Jersey City back then — Christ Hospital, Saint Francis Hospital, and the Jersey City Medical Center).
“Stay with my bike,” were the words he yelled at me as the ambulance doors were closed.
The two Jersey City cops had muscled the Norton onto the sidewalk, where it rested up against a tree.
“Nobody’ll bother ‘Cretin’s’ bike,” said one of them.
I fired up the Kawasaki and trailed the ambulance to the emergency room. Technically speaking, you had to be a blood relative to get beyond registration counter, but city emergency rooms tend to be busy places at 1am on Friday nights, as drunks, thugs, and general miscreants all tend to find their beer testicles at this magic hour. The nurse out front was filling out forms and barely looked up as she asked, “What’s your relationship to the patient?”
“He’s my sister,” I replied.
She waved me through without a glance.
“Cretin’s” shiny side really came through in a pinch, like when he was stretched out on a bed in the emergency room. I expected the name bracelet on his wrist to list him as “Fuck F. Fuckerson,” as that was the only thing he seemed to mutter. He wasn’t worried that he didn’t have a valid motorcycle rider’s license. (I didn’t have one either.) He wasn’t worried that he’d been rocketing 25 miles over the speed limit on Kennedy Boulevard. (Everybody did that.) And he wasn’t worried about the wrecked Norton. (He’d get it fixed by some by some chop shop artist in two weeks.)
“Cretin” was genuinely disturbed about not hooking up with the woman of his desire.
“I’m telling ya’... I’m gonna get one shot at this... And I probably blew it already,” was what he said to me as they wheeled him up to x-ray. “I’m never gonna find her.”
“Is he really your sister?” asked the registration nurse.
“Our mother had a strange sense of child-rearing. I’m here in case he needs blood, an organ, or anything else.”
“Like a joint or a personality?” She was a brunette, about 5’6” tall, and nicely sculpted in hospital scrubs. She was the woman “Cretin” had been pursuing all night.
And now that I was face-to-face with her, I was going to pursue her too. The gentle reader may be inclined to raise an eyebrow at this sudden turn of events. Here we have our narrator turning absolutely lupine (which means wolf-like) before the carcass of his closest friend has grown cold. (There is no cool-sounding word that means cockroach-like, otherwise I’d have used it.) But that’s how it was in Jersey City, back in the mid-seventies, when some guys rode Harley’s, and others rode Nortons, and disposable douches rode purple Kawasaki H2’s.
Her name was Karen, and she was a sister of a guy who used to hang out in one of “Cretin’s” preferred bars. Her brother had gone out west (in a hurry) and she turned up a few times in the gin mill to try and collect a small debt, and a set of keys, owed him by a former business associate. She mentioned that she’d seen “Cretin” a couple of times (once on the floor under the pool table), but that she’d seen me holding court as well.
“You seem very out of place in that bar,” Karen observed.
“Like Toulose Lautrek in a Parisian whorehouse for tall men?”
“Something like that,” she said with a smile. “Most guys in the ‘Bucket of Guts’ haven’t been to a Parisian whorehouse.”
Her shift ended three hours later, and she rode to breakfast on the pillion of my Kawasaki. It was the beginning of a romance that lasted six months. “Cretin’s” x-rays revealed another area of concern, and he was held for several days of observation. I dropped in 24-hours after the wreck to cheer him up.
“You worthless bag of shit,” was how he greeted me as I walked in. “Jackie Connolly saw you and my brunette down at the diner before the broken glass and plastic from the crash had been swept from the pavement.”
I said nothing but attempted to hide behind a look of mock surprise.
“She’s a nurse here,” he continued. “You almost had to ask her out over my bloodied corpse.”
I shrugged in a feeble attempt to avoid a smile.
“What happened to my wallet and keys and stuff after I got here?” Cretin asked.
“I took ‘em so they wouldn’t disappear,” I said, pulling them out of my jacket pocket.
“Cretin” grabbed the wallet and flipped it open. “There was $50 in here?”
“I know. Karen wanted steak and eggs for breakfast, and then we went around the corner for bloody Marys.”
“So I had to pay for your first date with my girl too?”
“Something like that,” I said, busting out laughing.
Though “Cretin” was in a private room, our conversation was broken by the sound of a toilet flushing. Several moments later, the bathroom door swung open and out stepped a real honey, in a short skirt, with the kind of eyes that could get men like me to do just about anything.
“This is Cecilia Siciliano,” said ‘Cretin.’ “We met when she opened the car door last night.”
Cecilia felt awful about the wreck, and got the cops to run her over to the hospital so she could see how the “poor biker” was doing. She actually waited until “Cretin” had come out of x-ray, which was more than I had done. She had then thought “Cretin” was “cute,” and hung around to hold his hand and stuff..
“Cecilia, this is ‘Reep.’ He is the worst kind of douche you will ever come across.”
“The disposable kind?” she asked.
“Yup,” said “Cretin,” with the laugh that was his trademark. “Don’t let him smile at you, and whatever you do, don’t talk to him.”
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011
Posted by Jack Riepe at Friday, November 18, 2011
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enjoyed that one - a bit Hunter S Thompson yourself, I have met "cretin" in many guises over the years - hope your recovery is going as well as...
Keep writing, I for one, love it!
Thank you for the comment and for reading Twisted Roads. I just spent two week researching my new motorcycle book ad have returned in good form. Look for the next episode of Twisted Roads over the weekend.
Just a thought though...maybe drop some of the parenthetical remarks such as " lupine (which means wolf-like)" ,"motorcycle rider’s license. (I didn’t have one either.)", and "traffic lights (about one every city block) "
If I didn't know what lupine meant, I'd rather look it up than feel that the writer was defining it because his reader base has a fourth grade education...but then again, what the fuck do I know.
It ewas great seeing you, Ihor, and Chris Wolfe. It was a pretty awesome weekend. You need to convince Ihor that you forgot your toiletries and come back and get them.
Thank you for the liberal use of parenthetical phrases throughout this story. I read Twisted Roads for its liberal references to fornication, which is what passes for humor here in the nation's capitol, and do not have time from my job to look up big words — like lupine, supine, nor turpentine.
I am a US Senator and am very busy these days coming up with words that mean "dissatisfaction, intellectualy insulting," and "moraly reprehensible;" but which sound like "cold beer, big tits, and "free bowling."
United States Senator
Dear Mike Cantwell:
It was great seeng you in your native habitat last week. I especially enjoyed our nature walk with the shotgun and the chainsaw. Most of all, I enjoyed drinking to dawn and going over to old man Simmon's place, where we howled like coyotes.
Thank you for calling my overuse of parenthetical phrases to the public's attention. In the future, I will attempt to limit myself to only explaining complex scientific references.
Dear Senator Porker-Schmorker:
While I support your position entirely, Mike Cantwell is being a real pain in the ass over a few parenthesis. As the Chairman of the powerful US Senate Deportation and Anal Sex Committee, perhaps you could bring him in for questioning.
without the parenthesis I would be lost. I can't afford a thesaurus nor a dictionary so your thoughtfulness for providing the definitions is greatly appreciated. Keep it UP !
hope you are healing well . . .
Riding the Wet Coast
Thank you for you kind note and for taking the time to read Twisted Roads, the official moto-blog of the West Cape May Sandinistas. I greatly appreciae your taking my side against the insidious Mike Cantwell, a low-brow Beemer rider who poured drinks into me for hours last weekend.
I have an endless supply of parenrthetical phrases as my convoluted style of writing often requires explanation or clarification. I will be completely healed the first time I disappear with a dolly for the weekend on a screaming BMW. Most likely in the spring.
Forget the parenthetical...look at this typo of "Cetin".........."I had no business revolving in these social circles, but “Cretin” made it my business. “Cetin” told these guys that I was cool... That I was a writer".
I see I will have to fix shit for you when you are in Jersey as well.
I applaud the use of parentheses or whatever.
It's a real boost to have Hanky Panky
-Smorgasborg writing in - I'm most "impressed".
"yours" "as ever" , "N"
Dear Non-Beemer, who I suspect is Chris J.:
I don't know... My copy looks good.
it is precisely the suspense of finding these mis-spellings that keep the readers glued to every word, waiting for that little slip of the keyboard. I am delighted to find one of these gems, and I somehow missed this one. Thank you for bring it to our attention
and to Jack, keep up the good work
Riding the Wet Coast
I am not sure I would like to meet that semi-retired pole dancer. Another great tale from the life of Jack. Welcome back and next time, leave the Swedish cheerleaders alone!
What happened to that Kawasaki and was it really purple?
That all non-locals might wish to know that the tunnel cut refers to the ancillary features concommitant with the Lincoln Tunnel. And I can state that the weekend's Scotch and cigar evening event was the height of the season, to be hopefully repeated. No excuse required to revisit the events at Drones Cottage.
Another beautifully written recounting Mr Riepe!
" and hung around to hold his hand and stuff". I can only imagine what that young lady was "holding" besides Cretin's hand.
Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner
Don't mess with decrepit pole dancers. More than fists can get a-swingin' in the latter years. Hope for a good concussion and no recall of the assault. ;)
A happy ending for everyone! I can appreciate parenthetical remarks. Saves having to google yet another fancy word outside my vocabulary. Lupine I already know, probably from reading Harry Potter.
Good read, I liked this. Cecilia Siciliano? Nice touch. Good read, though, succinct, interesting, and compelling first to last, though I would have worked in vulpine. That's got to be one of my favorites, that and the word mercurial.
Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life
My first Kawasaki H2 was green... And I crashed it after 2 years. A Harley rider I met in a bar (there's a recommendation for you) explained to me how a ghreen bike was unlucky. So I trook the insurance money and bought another one. I had wanted red... But what I got was a grape- flavored red, that was decidedly purple. But not purple-people eater purple.
I kept it through 1979 and sold it to a firecracker named Liz. She ran off with her college English teacher, who also rode, leaving her husband by the side of the road, holding his Johnson.
Thanks for reading Twqisted Roads and for leavinf a comment.
The "tunnel cut" across Kennedy Boulevard represents one of the most archane and dangerous traffic situations I have ever come across. First of all, it exists on three levels. The top level is a left lane exit and merge on the Boulevard, with traffic flying through there to beat the light. The second level is below grade, and is a suspended traffic circlewith four short ramps leading off of it. And the third level is I-495 itself. Here you need aircraft carrier catapults to get out into traffic tha is usually doing 60 mph from the get go.
The little gathering at your cabin with Chris Wolfe (ADK) and Mike Cantwell was a total pisser. I can't believe we smoked thosecigars in your kitchen, and drank everything within reach. It was a total pisser. It will be the subject of my blog on Monday.
There is no trick to getting a US Senator or a Congressman to write back to you. Just hint you might have two dollars to send as a campaign contribution and they will be like lampreys on your e-mail. To get them to stop, simply demand they do something useful.
I am delighted that I was able to thrown some light on your life... The pig farm bit has left me more than curious, however.
Dear Charlie6 (Dom):
"Cretin" was my friend for more than 20 years — before he died. He included me on so many half-assed adventures and hooked me up with so many willing ladies that it might take 20 years to go through all of the stories.
But I can assure you, not all of them turned out well.
I remember a lot of stuff like it was yesterday. But some stuff is buried, and stays buried, until someone else digs it up. I spent last weekend in the company of Ihor S., who is another friend of mine from high school. It was Ihor who reminded me of a number of Cretin Stories. Than Chris Wolfe called to mind that "Cretin" had made more than one or two appearances in the North Country (Adirondacks), and that led to mayhem too.
I actually typed in the lady's real name in the first draft of the story. I changed it to Cecilia Siciliano at the last minute. Believe me, it is damn close enough to the original. Anybody who knew "Cretin" and who read this piece would know her in a minute. I have readers in Jersey City who occasionally contact me to guess the names of some of the characters, and they are sometimes very accurate.
At close to 2,000 words, this was one of my longer blog pieces... But it seemed to move quickly and it is as accurate as I can get it — and true. I'm delighted you liked it.
It felt nowhere near two thousand, which, I think is the greatest compliment I can give.
That's the highest compliment I have ever received too!
Nice story, Riepe. Did H. S. Thompson (Not Hunter S., but Horse Shit Thompson) ever pay you for the writing lessons? (Note the use of the parenthesis to piss off Cantwell who is probably frozen in block of Lake Placid ice along side of his Rhode Island Reds praying for the Spring thaw, which is scheduled to arrive next July). Almost got a ride today. It was 65 and sunny, and I wound up in the car in a traffic jam for most of the freaking day. Hope you make it to breakfast tomorrow I'm riding even if it's 28 degrees (Remember that day?).
Keep 'em coming Jack !
Seemed too short to me too.
Well done (and the story was also good)! It must have been serendipity ("fate" or "happiness found in a surprising place") for you and Karen (a daring woman to try to collect a debt under those circumstances) to meet as you did; Cretin's crash was your gain.
What the hell are parenthesis? Not only that, what are all those ( ) things doing all over the place?
this was a good line "Riding a motorcycle along this stretch is the closet thing to experiencing life as a clay pigeon. "
Once again, great story Jack. I'm not sure if I'm sorry or glad I didn't grow up in New Jersey with you, Cretin, and assorted hangers-on giving all us bikers a bad name. :)
Nice articles. I'm just blogwalking and very happy to stop here. And also give you some comment here.
Dont forget to give us some your comment into my blog too.
Thanks for share,
* Rio Prasetyo *
My life has been almost as chaotic as Hunter S. Thompson's, and I still can't find anyone who'll pay me for the movie rights. Cape May is heaven for riders in a mild november. It is on the edge of great terrain, the weather is mild, and the women are pretty.
Dear Nick (Phillips):
Aren't you nice to say so! I do try to put a little bit of soul into every episode of Twisted Roads... What little I have left.
Thank you for reading and for leaving a comment — a nice comment, not like that bastard Mike Cantwell.
The "Bucket of Guts" was a strange neighborhood bar... Even for Jersey City. If you were a guy who just walked in off the street and asked about somebody, chances were good you'd get your ass thrown out in the street. But women, especially pretty ones, could get away with murder. Bitchy ones, readily identifiable as ex-wives or old girlfriends with a score to settle, got the air too.
Thanks for reading Twisated Roads, and for leaving a comment.
Parenthesis are those little dots (....) that I drop like rabbit shit all over the place. These things - ()- are pauses in inflection, which make ideal places for the reader to get another beer. Thank you for reading my blog and for embracing Twisted Roads as your life's philosphy.
Dear Chris (Luhman):
I learned to ride a motorcycle in Jersey City 40 years ago. I never gave the traffic a second thought. On a recent ride there (last year), I felt like the mascot for the charge of the Light Brigade. I faced certain death every 30 feet.
Thank you for reading Twisted Roads, and for leaving a comment.
Cretin hung around with a gang of 18 guys in a bar which I call "The Bucket of Blood." When I was last in the company of anyone from that bar, 16 of the 18 guys were dead. They lived fast and died hard. I think I got out in the nick of time.
But there isn't a day I don't miss Cretin.
Which stories did you like in particular?
I clicked on your blog and noted it is about organized sports in general. What kinf of motorcycle do you ride?
Jack, thanks for the reply and clarification. I cleaned up the rabbit shit and had four beers.
Great post (IMHO). I don't get what the esteemed (I use that term liberally (sorry, no offense Dick (also esteemed))) Mr. Cantwell has with them. They clearly (as much as plain text can) denote an aside (or sidebar) that speeds the reading of the piece (not that your posts are to sped thru (they're better left the savor and re-read (but not to children as bedtime stories))).
I feel like I've been writing in LISP (that's a programming language).
Jack, another great read, and another enjoyable installment of Reep and Cretin's excellent adventures (parenthetically speaking (of course)).
Thank you for your kind support for my use of parenthesis in my stories. I would have stopped using them at once, had one more person objected.... But none did.
Thanks again for reading Twisted Roads, and for recommending it to kindergarten teachers to be read aloud to their students.
Dear Classic Velocity (Wayne):
Thank you for reading Twisted Roads and for embracing my riding philosophy as one of life's purest thought processes. It means a lot to me.
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